I was fortunate enough to attend the REV2014 conference a few weeks ago. It was sponsored by Livestrong and the Conquer Cancer Foundation, and combined physicians, pharmaceutical companies, policy experts, and patients and advocates to come up with actionable solutions to problems in cancer care. I was part of a discussion on improving quality of care, and much of our time focused on what “quality” meant to us. Of course, no one would consider they had received quality care if their physician was not competent. And yet, we all agreed that how a patient feels about their experience depends on so much more than competence. A patient wants to be listened to, understood, respected. We want to feel like we have all the information to make the best decision on our own.
In general, there are few things that irritate me more than someone who says they will do something and fails to follow through. On Friday as my surgeon declared that she would “eat her hat” if there was anything troublesome in the pathology of the orzo/rice/fat glob, she assured me that she would give me a call Tuesday afternoon. I avoided dwelling on the pathology report over the weekend– it helped that we had a busy weekend. The boys were camping and Emma Clare and I had a girls night. We had two different parties on Saturday, and Sunday after church, Clay brought home our new puppy, Trixie. Definitely no time to worry about a pathology report. Monday came and went, and I stayed pretty busy on Tuesday, too. But by Tuesday afternoon, I was careful to keep my phone nearby, jumping anytime it rang. And the call never came. Wednesday was busy too, and even though I was leading a fourth grade sewing group in the library at the school, I left my ringer on so that I wouldn’t miss the call. I finally called my surgeon’s office, and was given the message that the report wasn’t back from pathology. I cooked dinner on the grill and tucked my phone in the waistband of my skirt since I didn’t have a pocket and didn’t want to miss the call when I headed out to flip the burgers. Still no call. And even though I didn’t silence it, I checked my phone during every break in action at handbells, in case I’d missed hearing my phone ring because of the music. Nothing. Thursday morning, I left the new puppy in the yard to learn how to spend some time by herself. But mostly, I left her because without pockets (again), I couldn’t take the puppy, my coffee, and my phone. Sorry, puppy, but the phone and the coffee won out. It turns out that I made the right choice, Trixie finally fell asleep by herself on the porch, and I finally got the phone call for which I’d been waiting. Benign. Exhale.
I don’t have a lot of experience at the waiting game, since the first time around I was so sure (and so assured by my doctor) that I didn’t need to worry about that cyst, I didn’t worry. Honestly, I pretty much forgot all about it. Also, I think she called me a few days before she told me to expect a call. (Good plan!) Once I’d been diagnosed with cancer, I didn’t worry much about the results of all the diagnostic tests, knowing that, while informative, they wouldn’t change the next step of treatment. But waiting for a cancer/no cancer call is tough.
I really like my surgeon and the office staff– they were so fabulous when I was first diagnosed with cancer, and I am completely confident in her skills as a surgeon. The thing is, if she’d have told me that she’d call me by Thursday, I’d have not obsessed most of Tuesday and all day Wednesday. A call a day or two early would have been a pleasant surprise. And after I called on Wednesday, it would have been nice if my surgeon’s assistant had spoken to me to let me know that they were sorry and would call to light a fire under the people in pathology. Neither of those things would have changed the results of the pathology, and I wouldn’t have gotten the results any sooner. And yet, they would have made a difference. The quality of my care (from the standpoint of medical competence) wouldn’t have changed a bit, but my quality of my life would have been greatly improved, even if just for a few days.